New growth frontier for Islamic finance

In Islamic banking, traditionally banks do not invest in interest bearing instruments like treasuries or bonds, which means all deposits collected are transferred to the real economy as “murabaha” loans. Besides supporting real businesses and production, it protects the borrower from financial shocks in crisis situations.

Furthermore, in the Islamic system, banks cannot call back the loans or change the pre-agreed rates – thus Islamic banking stabilises the financing conditions for debtor firms.

Realising the virtues of these practices, Bank Asya was established in 1996 in Turkey in accordance with the principles of interest-free banking. Since then this young and energetic bank has become the leading player of this sector in Turkey, and ranks 13th in assets among the 48 nationally operating banks.

Bank Asya gained its respected position in the banking and financial services sector thanks to its growing capital, strong profitability, solid funding and high quality service. The bank’s most important goal has been adoptting a customer-focused approach, offering its clients the best service possible along with the most advanced technology available, hence being able to bring interest-free banking to the masses.

International confidence
In this process, Bank Asya became the first participation bank in Turkey to go public and has been listed on the Istanbul Stock Exchange  with the ticker ASYAB. At 2010 year-end, the free float reached 53 percent of its capital; today 59 percent of ASYAB shares are hold by international institutional investors.

In March 2011 Bank Asya received over $300m in a murabaha syndicated loan from 26 international financial institutions, marking the largest such loan ever extended to a Turkish bank. This is the third loan Bank Asya has received of this kind, which proves the international markets’ trust in Bank Asya. Last year, the bank secured another $255m in a murabaha syndicated loan from international creditors.

International activity
With more than 1,300 correspondent banks all over the world, Bank Asya can facilitate business over 100 countries. Bank Asya is the first participation bank in Turkey to be assigned to act as an intermediary bank for the GSM 102 and GSM 103 programmes of the Commodity Credit Corporation of the US Department of Agriculture. Furthermore, Bank Asya is authorised to conduct international trade activities under Export Credit Agency (ECA) coverage such as US-Exim, Hermes, SERV, Finnvera and ONDD. The outstanding risk of Bank Asya at different ECAs is around $300m.

Extending interest-free banking abroad has been Bank Asya’s vision since the beginning. In 2009, Bank Asya acquired a 40 percent stake in Senegal-based Tamweel Africa Holding SA. Tamweel Africa Holding was owned by the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, a subsidiary of the Islamic Development Bank. The holding either fully owns or has controlling shares in the Islamic Bank of Niger, the Islamic Bank of Senegal and the Islamic Bank of Guinea. The holding has plans to acquire the Islamic Bank of Mauritania soon. Besides investments in Africa, Bank Asya is planning to open a branch in Erbil, Iraq, and a representative office in Mumbai, India, to reach Middle Eastern and Far Eastern markets.

Retail banking
Bank Asya provides its individual, small business and corporate clients with services to meet all their banking needs, while meeting and exceeding their expectations. Besides the traditional in-branch access channels, Bank Asya provides internet banking, ALO ASYA telephone banking, mobile banking, ATMs and POS terminals. All methods are fast and effective with no interruption.

With 1.7 million issued credit cards, Bank Asya is the leading participation bank in Turkey in retail banking. Its contactless credit card AsyaCard DIT has received three awards: the Retail Banking award from the sixth Active Academy International Finance Summit; Best Cash Displacement Initiative in the Visa Europe Member Awards; and Best New Credit Card Product Launch in the Cards and Payments Europe Awards. Following the success of AsyaCard DIT, Bank Asya launched DIT Pratik, Turkey’s first pre-paid contactless card.

Innovation
Bank Asya has a pioneering role in innovative financial services as well. Considering the rapid growth in the mobile phone sector, Bank Asya is generating its latest product: DIT Mobile.

With DIT Mobile technology it will be possible to purchase a hamburger with your mobile phone. Making payments (as well as utilising other financial applications) using mobile phones is inevitable, and Bank Asya is always planning for future generations, with continuous effort to provide award-winning innovative products and services to its customers.

SME banking
Since its establishment, Bank Asya assists the Turkish real economy with more than 100 percent loan to deposit ratios and providing $13bn of cash and non-cash loans to SMEs and corporates in 2010. Bank Asya aims to target its various products especially to SMEs, helping them grow and expand from local markets to national and international ones. Bank Asya provides them consultancy services as well to help them become a brand name. The “Coban Yıldızı” project, named after the Turkish word for lodestar (traditionally a star which allows lost travellers to find their direction), aims to give direction to SMEs in their search to become bigger and better companies.

 Bank Asya is actively financing projects on both the international and domestic level. It has issued guarantees for many of the largest projects in Turkey and has clients that are involved in development projects throughout the world. In project financing Bank Asya offers various services to the parties involved in the project. In the case of a real estate project for instance, Bank Asya provides services to the owner, construction company, contractors and individual homebuyers – through purchasing the land, accomplishing the construction, and assisting with final sale and purchase – from the beginning to the end of the project.

Brand name
With $229m of brand value, Bank Asya ranks among the top 500 banks in the world, according to London-based brand valuation company Brand Finance – and it is climbing the ladder every year. Besides the superlative services it provides, Bank Asya invests its brand value through social responsibility programmes and sub-brand names, such as Bank Asya 1.Lig, Coban Yıldızı and DIT Card.

Bank Asya 1.Lig is the secondary Turkish football league, which Bank Asya has sponsored for the last four years. This sponsorship is very well suited for the bank, as the secondary football league hosts the Anatolian football teams – and Anatolia hosts the SMEs to which Bank Asya provides $13bn loans.

Coban Yıldızı is Bank Asya’s corporate project, where its top management reaches out to inner cities of Turkey, listens to the questions and comments of local SMEs and provides advisory services to them. DIT Card is Bank Asya’s award-winning contactless card with 1.7 million subscribers. The name DIT has become the brand name for all contactless cards.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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